Scientists compared many different types of diets to see which was most effective.
Many of the most popular diets are just as effective as each other, a large review of research concludes.
Whether it is low-carb, low-fat, Mediterranean or intermittent fasting, dieters lose about the same amount of weight, on average.
However, the Mediterranean and DASH diets also provide the highest protection against heart disease, the scientists found.
Some diets work much better for particular people.
It is partly down to which diet you can stick to, along with genetics and health status.
So, the key is to try different diets until hitting on one that suits.
Dr George A. Bray, the study’s first author, said:
“Individual weight loss approaches worked well for some people and not for others.
Currently, we have limited genetic and other information to predict which intervention will work for a given individual.
This demonstrates just how complex the problem of severe obesity is.”
The conclusions come from a massive, comprehensive review of the research on many different ways of losing weight.
Including over 400 studies on all types of weight loss interventions, only surgery proved a markedly more effective option than the rest.
Different diets and behavioural interventions were modestly successful, on average.
Modest success, however, is not what people want, said Dr Bray:
“There often is a mismatch between the patient’s cosmetic goals and what can realistically be achieved with diet and exercise.
While a modest 5 percent to 10 percent weight loss can yield significant health benefits, that may not provide the cosmetic changes patients seek.”
There was little evidence that dietary supplements — which are not evaluated by the FDA — can aid weight loss.
Dr Bray said:
“Effectively treating obesity is crucial if we are going to be able to address the devastating impact diabetes and cardiovascular disease have on public health.
We are seeing promising research into diabetes medications linked to weight loss, the use of peptides to enhance weight loss, and improved techniques for modulating the way food moves through the digestive system and is absorbed into the body.
As our scientific understanding of obesity continues to improve, we hope this will lead to the discovery of new treatment approaches.”
The study was published in the journal Endocrine Reviews (Bray et al., 2018).